Auburn’s Corey Lemonier was listed as both a defensive end and outside linebacker going into last week’s NFL draft, so when the 49ers moved up to select him in the third round, some fans were a bit confused about his future.
So, too, was Lemonier, who was so pumped up about being selected by the NFC champions that he told reporters he found out about his selection when he was called by “head coach John Harbaugh.”
When he was told he’d mentioned the wrong Harbaugh brother, he was apologetic.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry,” he told the media via a teleconference. “I’m just really excited right now. I can’t even think right now. I’m so sorry.”
Jim Harbaugh, however, was understanding about the mixup.
“For future reference, with reporters, you want to get the name right,” Lemonier said Harbaugh told him later, according to Alabama.com. “Just laughing it off.”
If Lemonier plays up to expectations, it will be the 49ers who will be smiling.
At Auburn, Lemonier was a defensive end at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, and had 17 sacks in three seasons. But at the NFL Combine, Lemonier was grouped with the outside linebackers and that is where he’s projected to contribute in San Francisco.
He ran a good 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and NFL scouts have been impressed by his quickness. In scouting reports, Lemonier was rated a strong “off the edge” pass rusher, a relentless pursuer and “ferocious hitter.”
The 49ers never met with Lemonier, so his selection by San Francisco surprised him, but he said, “It’s a great defense and I’m humbled to be a part of it.”
Lemonier’s agent, Eric Metz, said Lemonier took visits to Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Miami, and also had interest from Pittsburgh and New England.
Niners GM Trent Baalke, however, said the 49ers liked what they saw on film and at the Combine.
“Our scouting staff is outstanding,” Baalke told Alabama.com. “We have a lot of faith in the information they bring back.”
Lemonier is a bit in the mold of 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who was a defensive end at Missouri but has transitioned to an outstanding player in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme. Going into training camp, he’ll be behind Smith and Ahmad Brooks – the starter on the other side – and returning veteran Parys Haralson, who was injured in 2012, and holdovers Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson.
Metz says his client is going to a team that runs the perfect system and will offer him a great opportunity to succeed.
“He couldn’t be more fortunate to go to a better organization with such tremendous coaching and other great players around him,” Metz told Alabama.com. “He’s played on a good football team before and been productive, and I’m certain they traded up again because they know he’s going to do that again.”
Baalke and Harbaugh have offered no guarantees. They like Lemonier’s resume and scouting reports, but now he’ll have to prove himself.
“We’ve got a good group of linebackers, and he’s going to have to come in and earn his position,” Baalke told the Sacramento Bee.
Lemonier is ready. His mission now, he says, is to “go to San Fran and just practice my butt off.”